They say they want different, but do they really?

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

I heard someone say this other day, "People say they want a different way of thinking and operating at work; when it is offered up, it turns out they really don't". I have also experienced this first hand and want to ponder it for a while - At face value this simply doesn't make much sense... but then again, maybe it does. 

Humans have been very successful and are at the top of the food chain mostly because we have been able to control our environment - Be it keeping the rain off our heads, the wild animals at bay, or building a state-of-the-art process to manage customer orders and ship within 12 hours (guaranteed). We control and bring predictability to things. We are successful for it, and this "request for different" simply seems to flies in the face of it. So begins the "rub"*. 

This "perceived contradiction" is created as we work hard to bring control and predictability to what we do, and then want to work outside of what we have created to bring improvement and growth; all the while putting up roadblocks to prevent it from happening. Examples abound of "the wild project" that could not get support, but with some inventive "skunk works activity"** becomes a big hit that everyone rallies behind. The fact that no one originally wanted it, is forgotten.  

I call this a "perceived contradiction", as this dynamic may seem as much, but will argue it is more of a check and balance to manage success and sustainable growth - Successful and viable businesses need to have systems, processes, operating mechanisms, business rhythms and measures that are all in control or they simply will not be sustainable. The coveted new idea or different way of thinking can, and will play havoc on the way a business is run if not kept in check. These roadblocks that arise and push back on a "different way of thinking" are to vet out what is viable and what is not. Simply put, the good will find their way, and the bad will "die on the vine". 

When you hear someone say, "They want a different way of thinking" or "They want to do things differently" take this into consideration:

  • They truly mean it.
  • Up front you should know that anything new, different, and "outside the box" will be challenged, dismissed, and you will hear various versions of the word "no".
  • The burden is on the person with something different to "sell it", not for others to "buy it". 
  • Without breaking the law or the guiding principles of the company it is "on you" to make it work... this is where that expression "Good People Find a Way" probably came from.

So how do you work through this "perceived contradiction" to make different a reality? Success stories abound, so know that it is done all the time and these are a few things that come to mind: - 

  • Be persistent. If you are not willing to be the champion and a loud advocate, it simply was a "passing idea"
  • Not everyone will say "no", search them out and leverage their voice, skills and funding (if they have it) and build momentum.
  • Just make it happen and prove its success. You know that old adage "It's better to beg for forgiveness, than ask for permission". ***

So good luck with your different ideas and remember - The company is truly a a safe place to vet everything out, as when you get into the open market, it is a ruthless, hostile and unforgiving place.


* An idiom derived from how irritating it is for the animal when you rub it's fur the wrong way, 

** A skunk works is a group of people that, in order to achieve unusual results, work on a project in a way that is outside the usual rules.

*** There is no doubt that there is "risk" that comes with this, but anything worth doing, always comes with risk.